Cryptome/Principled Leaks, Deep State Agency - or a bit of both?

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A critical discussion about John Young and Cryptome, stemming from discussions between a Wikispooks editor and Trowbridge H Ford.

Article Origins

This article originated in discussions between a Wikispooks editor and Trowbridge H Ford.

Cryptome Status

John Young's website Cryptome has an unrivaled status in the world of intelligence-watchers. Whistleblowers and Left-wingers see it as a great thorn in the side of Intelligence Establishments, Government Agencies an other centres of Wealth and Power, around the world - believing it will post whatever they can provide. Government Officials and Political Conservatives see the site as a dangerous Leaker of vital secrets which must be stopped at any cost. Young himself keeps everyone guessing about what he will do next, particularly when he ventures out of his apartment on Manhattan's West Side. He is always well prepared for confrontation, whether it be in public or on the web. He maintains an image of 'nothing to hide about anything'. He particularly likes throwing questioners off-balance by beating them to the punch with questions of his own, or supplying unexpected answers which worry or unsettle questioners. In recent confrontations about Julian Assange's Wikileaks, he has become something of a Circus Master, cracking the whip to make even more trouble for the poor Australian, only to call for restraint and the rule of law when public demands start to take on the character of the lynch mob.

2005 Notoriety

Young first gained national notice in 2005 when the Reader's Digest published an article, fittingly entitled: "That's Outrageous! Let's Shut Them Down" [1]. Cryptome was presented as the leading wedge of all the nuts and zealots on the worldwide web, threatening the nation's security in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The monthly magazine was particularly incensed by Young posting photographs of the Republican Convention Centre and surrounding area, drawing attention to all the hazards it could face if terrorists, once more, started blowing things up. Young had highlighted the security problems while appearing on Peter Jennings' ABC Evening News the previous August 16th. "A self-employed architect," the Reader's Digest interviewer Michael Crowley explained, "he claims to be just a concerned citizen, someone who thinks we're all safer if there are no government secrets." [1] Crowley considered Young to be just the best of madmen, intent on killing elected officials, government employees - like Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Porter Goss - secret agents and abortion doctors by his disclosures of who they are, where they live, and how they can be contacted. While Crowley hoped that the Democratic Congressman for New York, Anthony Weiner, could close Cryptome down by legislative fiat, Crowley thought that the protection of free speech made that most unlikely, hoping instead that internet service providers (ISP's) would themselves effectively censor such sites.

When the interview with Young was ending, Crowley asked him if there was anything that he would not disclose on his site - "like a hole in presidential security for example?" - Young retorted: "Well, I'm actively looking for that information right now." [1]

MI6 lists and the RADAR Article

While Crowley's call had the clearly desired effect of Young being dropped by his internet service provider (ISP) Verio/NTT shortly thereafter, he soon found another one - much to the relief of potential whistle blowers and anti-government proponents. By this time, Young's site had exposed the identities of 276 agents of Britain's MI6, 600 Japanese secret intelligence officers, and over 2,500 alleged CIA sources, all gathered apparently from leakers. RADAR magazine was so impressed by his accomplishments that it posted a glowing report in one of its 2007 issues by John Cook, "Secrets and Lies: The man behind the world's most dangerous website". [2] the article amounted to an endorsement of Cryptome and it's collected documents available to purchasers on a $25/disc. It was a far cry from a previous interview by another RADAR reporter, Anthony Haden-Guest, a year before which never appeared in the magazine.

The Google of national security

By posting photographs and maps of where important officials lived - like Vice President Dick Cheney, DCI Michael Hayden. and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - Young seemed to be just what NBC analyst William Arkin judged him to be, "the Google of national security". Cook added: "Young is a mad scientist of secrecy working, with little more than monomaniacal focus and an internet connection to turn the tables on the Spooks and expose what he regards as a criminal network of intelligence operatives." While describing Young's rise to fame, Cook seemed rather taken by his dismissive attitude towards it all, especially while a student at Columbia's School of Architecture in Avery Hall during its May 1968 riots. While Young played down his role, others thought it considerable - And with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, the riots had provided just the sort of boost that Nixon and the warmongers needed as the autumn presidential election of that year loomed.

"Don't Trust Anyone"

Young says he doesn't trust anyone, and expects no one to trust him - or anything that Cryptome posts for that matter - a disposition that he intriguingly calls "standard tradecraft". He explains that he does his work because he is "just so damn angry at authority".

To question the Cryptome consensus will be pure heresy to some; but Young himself is quite clear about it:

"We caution people - don't believe anything we publish. We're totally untrustworthy. We may be a sting operation. We may be working for the Feds. If you trust us, you're stupid."

And of course, in the final analysis, who among any cohort of 'principled leakers' is really immune to - "'an offer that cannot be refused" - anyway? [3]

So, just what sort of leaker is John Young?

The experience of Trowbridge H Ford

Trowbridge Ford is among those who believe that the cosy consensus view IS mistaken:

Young may be precisely that which he jokingly denies to those who question him - a Deep Agency operator whose duty is to expose those who leak secrets which are not REALLY so secret, in such a way that problems exposed can be fixed and their sources hounded and dealt with 'appropriately'. Increasingly, since the site was started back in the mid-1990s, John Young and his wife Deborah, daughter of CIA operative Anthony Natios, reveal the sort of information that can be learned by America's enemies - like 'holes in presidential security' quoted above - which in turn helps to ensure they are fixed before they can be taken advantage of. They appear to work on the basis that, if they can get their hands on secrets which can hurt national security, then so can those who really want to hurt it, and they should either be stopped and/or the opening closed.

Ford, a former US Army Counter Intelligence Corps agent himself and now a retired college politics professor living outside Stockholm, became an associate editor of Eye Spy! magazine shortly after the 9/11 attacks. He had a double article published in Issue 8, about 9/11, [4] and the Agency's use of Manchurian Candidates in the assassinations of American leaders during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations. [5] He added to his explanations of 9/11 with an article about FBI agent John O'Neill being sidelined during the tragedy, in Issue Thirteen. Ford's relationship with Eye-Spy soured over payment issues and he began sending some of his output to Cryptome. Things started well but Cryptome became very selective about what it would publish. In particular, it seemed reluctant to publish anything damaging to the official narratives of 9/11, the 1960's US assassinations, and sensitive high profile cases involving espionage . A case in point concerned Ford's writings about the compromised composition of the President's Commission on 9/11, a composition which Ford claimed - and pretty much the entire 9/11 Truth Movement agree - guaranteed a cover-up from the outset. Ford's problems with the Commission composition are set out in his email to the Commission Staff Director Philip Zelikow [6], which was sent to Cryptome but not published. However, it must also be said that the broad 9/11 Truth Movement, far from seeing Zelikov as a neutral fair-dealing but possibly naive academic (as Ford's email implies), regard him as the carefully chosen Neocon/Zionist conductor of the Commission member players, for the entire cover up. The Aldridge Ames and Robert Hanssen spying cases are also areas where Ford's 'Official narrative-bashing' research appears unwelcome. [7]


  • Keep John Young's cautions clearly in mind and remain agnostic.
  • With that caveat, for the dedicated student of deep politics and the 'smoke and mirrors' world of official information, the Cryptome site remains well worth monitoring.

External Links to related information

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  1. a b c "That's Outrageous! Let's Shut Them Down" - Reader's Digest March 2005
  2. Secrets and Lies: The man behind the world's most dangerous website. RADAR September 2007
  3. Michael Corleone to Kay Adams - The Godfather
  4. Trowbridge H. Ford, "The Prelude: US Intelligence - 11 September 2001," Eye Spy!, Issue Eight, pp. 26-33.
  5. Trowbridge H. Ford, "Manchurian Candidates: Mind-Control Experiments and The Deadliest Secrets of the Cold War," ibid.,pp.50-5
  6. Ford-Zelikow email 27 March 2003
  7. Ames and Hanssen Driven to Spy by Reckless Double Agent Operations